Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Curse of Social Media - Bullying and Idiotic Remarks

            Everyone who knows me, can emphatically state that technology is a passion.  New gadgets, gizmos, the latest craze - when it's announced, I will be reading about it or trying it out. 
            When social media pages were developed, the concept of sharing information online did not appeal to me.  We have so many problems in our society with stalkers, pedophiles, murderers and other deviants that the idea to post personal information was taboo, in my perspective.
            My daughter urged me to try MySpace because she wanted a page as well.  I agreed, as long as I had her username and password to check on her account periodically.  (I'm sure that's another argument in the future, but she's not your daughter  <grin>)
            Through several trials, we both gleaned that MySpace was a bit annoying with all the ads and the actual page format and we ceased using it.  Then, along came Facebook.  Now, this was one I truly enjoyed.  The presentation on the computer screen was clean, friendly and not so many of those annoying ads.
            Facebook became a device for contacting long, lost friends, distant relations and making connections with others that shared the same perspective on life values.
            Sounds wonderful, correct?
            Unfortunately, it's now become a place where people can vent their anger by cursing out their neighbor, hurling insults at an employer, slandering exes and intimidating the meek and mild.
            When did people lose their brains? 
            No one enjoys being humiliated in public.  Do people not understand that just because you're typing it, doesn't mean you aren't still embarrassing someone?
            I don't want to read about how you hate someone or who was "mugging" you at a game.  Facebook is not a sounding board to air your dirty laundry. 
            In order to be an adult, you deal with conflict personally and privately.  You don't state someone's name on the web and hurl expletives at this person.  Mostly everyone who reads your comment has no clue what just happened.  It makes YOU look ignorant and leaves a bad taste in the mouths of your readers.
            Some will argue, "But I'm just venting steam!"  Fine, but you don't need to state someone's name, the place, time or incident.  The fact is, you are committing something called "cyber bullying" or "defamation of character."  In the heat of emotion, you are not thinking clearly.  Its advisable to step back and regain control of your feelings before you begin announcing it to the world.  You may also regret your comments the next day and damage a bond with someone, not to mention staining your own reputation as well.
            You can be mad at your friend or boyfriend or girlfriend or co-worker, but face the reality that we are all human and make mistakes. We upset people but we must learn from it.  If the error is so erroneous that you can never forgive this person, then MOVE ON!  Don't keep it alive by posting it all over the internet for the entire universe.  You are allowing this person to control you, because you can't let it go.  You are giving permission to others to make comments and the wound will never heal.
            Ive seen people post, I dont need your comments, but…”  Hello?  Facebook is all about stating opinions.  If you do not want others to reply, DONT POST IT.  You dont have the right to become angry.  It was your doing when you opened that door.
            We all get upset.  We have our moments and feel we have been wronged horribly.  Usually, the other person is feeling the same way but from a different perspective.  If you truly must purge your soul, find a close friend that can listen, comfort and allow you to express yourself.  Don't post your hate filled rants, because in the long run, it will back fire and may haunt you in the future.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Solitude: It's Not A Bad Thing

As a teacher, I have heard numerous comments, phrases and stories throughout the year which usually makes me smile or breaks my heart.  Conversations range from fights, boy/girlfriend trouble to plans over the weekend.  The perfect remedy is within their grasp, but they tend to look at my in horror when I suggest a solution:  solitude.

My job is to instruct my students how to read and write better, in the world of the literature.  However, I try to throw in topics that relate to their lives presently or in the future.  Frequently, my ears will absorb the dreaded topic of solitude.  Teenagers hate it.  They would rather be in school versus having to stay home and be alone. 

When I ask, "What's so terrible about being by yourself?"

The response?  "Nothing to do! I get bored!"

My cliche reply tends to be "Read a book."

Sounds mundane, but my students haven't truly grasped the significance of this directive.  Adults have trouble with this, too.

Solitude is crucial in our lives.  As adults, we have stressful days but believe it or not, teenagers do as well.  Studying, working, extra curricular activities, maintaining grades, homework, and some have to help pay bills for their parents or even due to living on their own.

Why is solitude imporant?  In order to be a better human being, we need to have selfish alone time.  In that moment, a person can rest physically and mentally.  It rejuvenates the spirit, reorganizes your thinking process and facilities the individual into a new week.

There is a difference between resting and laziness, so be careful.  If all you do is lie around, let the trash pile up, and ignore your household duties, then you are not experiencing the true essence of solitude.

For example:  it's Sunday.  My family is still asleep and I am in the basement writing this blog.  It's very quiet.  No music, no television - nothing.  The stillness of the house, the cat at my feet and the perfect temperature of my home is a tranquil beginning of my day.  People are not demanding of my time, asking tons of questions or telling me story after story pertaining to their anctics of the day.

It's pure bliss.

Granted, I still need to do some laundry, grade and pay some bills, but the fact I can do this without interruption is the blessing of solitude.

That's just one type but here are some of my favorites:

1.  Soaking in the tub.  This is my favorite way to dash away from my hectic lifestyle.  My mom teases me from time to time because she doesn't understand this, but in the end, I am very relaxed and more open to communication.  I make every effort to do this at least once a week.  Hot, hot water, tons of bubbles, a good book, my favorite scented candle and a low background musical piece (instrumental only), creates the perfect atmosphere for what my husband says, "Tina's Serenity Time."

2.  Hammock:  we finally purchased one this year.  Early in the morning or late at night, this is a treat!  My daughters have been caught snoozing in it.  My oldest daughter was reclining one evening without her iPod (which is miralce) and her telephone (I almost fainted) but she didn't have a book either.  Her arms were behind her head and she allowed a gentle breeze to rock her back and forth.  I asked her, "What are you dong?"  She replied, "Just chillin'" was her reply.  See?  Solitude.  I left her alone where she basked in the night air for quite some time.

3.  No friends:  this is something I tell my daughters they need to do from time to time.  Enjoy an evening of no friends.  They choose to hang in their rooms and watch a movie or go outside and ride a bike or scooter up and down the street.  I try to stress no texting, but that's easier said than done!  I remember one time, my youngest asked someone to spend the night.  The entire week had been full of school, night activities and running around.  My gentle reply "Let's have a quiet night.  I think you need it."  She didn't argue, but the look on her face told me she was not happy.  She fell asleep rather early and slept well into the next morning.  When she woke up, she told me, "I'm glad I didn't have anyone over.  I was tired."  Tired, yes, but she only realized it because she slowed down and found the positive side of solitude.

I've been instilling the idea of "alone time," "serentity now" (Seinfeld phrase), and "solitude" into my daughters' psyches for quite some time now.  They are slowly seeing the benefits of this form of meditation.

To my students, it's an on-going battle.  They believe that in order to "have fun" you have to be constantly on the move, interacting with friends and party.  The need to "be still" and enjoy the quieter times in life is not in their vocabulary. 

I know, I know.  It's a "teen thing" and one day, they will understand the importance of it, but I can't give up now.  They will someday realize how important it is and to cherish those moments of reflection and rejuvenation.  They will make the connection that these quiet moments will make them better individuals, they will appreciate life more and become better human beings.

If you are reading this blog, I hope you, too, find a time for that needed solitude.  I would love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You On September 11, 2001?

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in New York City.  The hijacking of four airplanes with the innocent passengers ranging from newborns to the elderly, would take their last trip as they plunged into buildings or the quiet landscape of small community.

We all know the stories, the acts of heroism, the nameless faces of those who screamed in terror as they witnessed the unfathomable essence of pure evil.

Right before the news broke of the first airplane crashing into the World Trade Center, I had just stepped out of the career lab of South High School in Wichita, Kansas.  My freshmen were working with counselors and creating a career folder.  Basically, "What do I want to be when I grow up" type of lesson.  Passing by one of the administrator's offices, I noticed that one of our security guards and a couple of staff members were huddled around the television like a campfire scene.  Pausing mid-step, I inquired, "What are you doing?"  They all glanced up and one stated, "An airplane has hit one of the World Trade Centers."  I shook my head sadly, not at that moment, realizing the impact of his statement.  "Oh how horrible, " I replied.  The idea of an accident was the only conclusion my mind could concoct. 

Proceeding into the opposite office, I cleaned out my mailbox, spoke with a few of the office staff about student issues and retraced my steps toward my freshmen class.  When I heard, "What the hell is going on!"  I stepped back into the previous office.  The huddled group of colleagues quickly dispersed and the security guard shook his head as he walked past.  "We're at war."

What?  What!  "Wait a minute!  What's happening?"  I asked, as I grabbed his shirt sleeve. 

"Another airplane has hit the other World Trade Center.  I just watched it live on television."  He walked away in search of our head principal.

I could feel my stomach began to churn and the implications of his statement.  A sudden sense of fright enveloped me and the first thing I thought of were my two girls, ages 1 and 5 at the time, and then my military husband.  I ran to the television, saw a few pictures of the burning buildings and returned to the counselor's office. 

I've been told my face is full of expression and that day, more so than ever. The counselor could read what was written on my face.  She knew something horrible had occurred but no clue just how much so.   As my students, my precious, young, innocent students continued to work, I whispered to the counselor what was happening.  I informed her that I needed to contact my husband.

I went into an office, dialed his number, and when he answered "unsecured line" my heart raced even faster.  "Michael?  What is happening?" 

"Not sure yet.  Don't expect me home for awhile," and within seconds, he hung up.

What just seemed like seconds, the news broke that the Pentagon had been hit. 

It was war.

I cannot remember which paraprofessional it was, but she saw me shaking and she must have sensed my turmoil.  I felt cool hands grasp mine and she pulled me into a office with the school's registrar.  She began praying and I bowed my head and listened as she asked for God to heal us in this time of need, to send a calm over our spirits and protect our brothers and sisters of our nation.

I wiped my tears, hugged her and went back into the counselor's career center and resumed my duties as a teacher.

I've always thought I was a strong, independent woman.  However, for three solid weeks, I would go through the motions of chores, cooking, taking care of household duties but I can actually say that I was in a state of depression.  I cried myself to sleep every night, worried for my husband and fearing for my children.  Watching the clips of the airplanes slamming into the building, bodies falling and the collapse of the towers continued to invade my soul.  The television was becoming a nightmare and I made the decision to turn it off for some time.  It was a saving balm.

My brother in law was sent to Iraq and served two tours.  We are so thankful that he returned home safely to his wife and three children. He is now officially retired from the Marine Corps and was welcomed home by the American Legion.

 My military husband wrote his name on the volunteer list, if he was needed.  I was terrified by that prospect but it's who he is:  a proud American who loves his country.  He was never called to fight over in the Middle East, but he is still with the military and close to retiring.

The fact that ten years have passed seems unreal.  I can still vividly recall the feelings of terror, the patriotism and the pictures plastered throughout my memory.   My spirit was deflated for quite some time, but as I listen to survivors speak of courage, hope and moving forward, I feel that I must do the same. 

I may have not been physically there when it happened.  I did not lose a family member, but as an American, I lost brothers and sisters and I bled with our country.  We may have some problems in our nation with our politicians, the economy and other issues, but I would never consider living anywhere else. 

Just as singer Lee Greenwood stated:  "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free.  And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me, so I proudly stand up, next to you and defend you still today.  'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land...GOD BLESS THE USA."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Mid-Life Crisis?

My husband has stated, quite frequently, that I am experiencing a "mid-life crisis."  I shake my head in frustration when he says this because my definition of this phrase differs quite significantly. 

Most people will define it as "trying to gain back a youth lost" or "changing to reckless behavior."  This applies to many people I know, but me?  I don't think so.  Why does he tease me over and over?  My explanation follows and after you read this post, please feel free to comment.  Is my husband correct or am I?

It all begin in January of this year.  Tired of the constant side pains during my monthly curse, the horrible image of myself in the mirror and driving around in my "mommy van," my next course of action was just that:  take action and quit whining!

In March, my OB-GYN and I decided enough was enough and it was time to have a TAH (total abdominal hysterectomy).  The word frightened me at first:  surgery, hot flashes, irritability...wait.  I was already experiencing these things and more, especially the irritability.  Letting go of my fears, a sigh escaped my body and the truth hit me in the face:  you're getting older and it's time to accept what I was experiencing or alter my life.  I scheduled the next visits for the Lupron shots and then my surgery. 

When I left the office with Toots (my husband, for future reference), feelings of fright yet relief swirled throughout my brain.  Something inside me burst open and the change began...pardon the pun.

1.  Improve my health.  In March, I weighed 215 pounds and I hated it.  I loathed shopping for clothes, seeing old friends (who I felt probably stated as I walked away, "Gosh, she's gotten fat!) and just plain dealing with that bloated feeling.  I began walking.  It was a slow process, but eventually my walks totaled three to four miles per day.  My surgery occurred in June and for six weeks, exercising was off limits.  Yeah, right.  Into the third week of recovery, the itch to weave movement into my routine emerged.  I was walking my three miles within four weeks of recovery, against the wishes of Toots.  Now, I am working on the "Couch to 5K" program.  It's been difficult.  My bucket list includes running a 5k once in my life.  I don't know if I will get there, but I am trying.  I had to start over because in August I had surgery on my left leg to collapse a varicose vein and it's been a bit painful.  As of the writing of this post, I am down 22 pounds and going strong.

2.  Connect with a friend.  Family is my priority and always will be.  They come first and that will never change.  However, sometimes you need to step outside the door and have "friend time."  Her name is Lee and we have known each other over twenty years.  We are both teachers, have busy lives, but she is good for my spirit.  Calming, compassionate and a great listener, it's wonderful to be able to turn to someone to vent.  (My sister in law, Patty, is my "bestie" but she lives further away and we don't get to see each other very often, except for family gatherings.  She is my rock in my life and I couldn't imagine being on this earth without her.  Thank goodness for the telephone!)  Anyhow, Lee began exercising with me. Apparently, she had been feeling the same way and started her program five months earlier and when I saw her, I thought, "WOW!  She looks awesome!"  I told her about my bucket list and while I was recovering from surgery, she began the running program.  She is doing very well and I'm proud of her. 

2.  Get a new car.  Sounds materialistic but I had been driving the "mommy machine" minivan for seven years.  Don't start fuming:  vans are awesome.  The gas mileage, the room, the economy of the entire vehicle is a necessity for busy parents with hectic lives and a horrible economy.  So, why the new car?  I read somewhere that "you only live once" and the thought of enjoying my twilight years didn't include waiting until I was eighty years old to finally have a car I loved.  I mean LOVED.  So, with the support of Toots, the car hunt began.  Right before my surgery, my new car sat in my garage.  Well....that's another long story but after a bit of conflict and lemon car experience, my new-new car is NOW in my garage.  It's a dark red Buick Enclave and to say "Heaven" can't describe it.  It's a crossover vehicle.  It's a merge between an SUV and a mini van - it can seat seven people but most of all, it matches my personality.  I feel re-energized. 

3.  Get back to writing.  I've been focused so much on my family, my job and other responsibilities that I have put my passion on the back burner:  writing.  I belong to a local romance writer's club (have been for fifteen years), but my attendance has been spotty for about a year.  My daughters are involved in numerous activities in school and extra curricular.  Their dreams and hopes come first, but it's important that I do not lose mine as well.  I need to teach my girls that when they have families in the future, that they can still live out their personal desires without neglecting their duties as a wife and mother.  So, as I tell my students: "in order to improve your writing, you need to write!  It's like exercise or playing a sport. You need to stay active or you grow stagnate."  Thus, my blog.  My goal is to update it once a week.  Wish me luck.

These are my "mid-life" crises that, according to my husband, has changed my attitude.  Personally, I believe it to be an improvement, and I don't see it as a crisis.  We all go through changes in our lives and they should be for the better, right?  If we stay the same, then nothing is learned.

A mid-life crisis to me is running away from responsibility, leaving your family behind and basically, losing your brain and getting plain stupid.  I would never do these things.  My life is wonderful, but these minor alterations, in my eyes, only seek to strengthen my marriage and my relationship with my daughters. 

What do you think?